Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gambling (San Bruno, 1998)

We sit at the Lucky Coin Casino on the 101 with plastic buckets of red and black chips clutched between our legs. I'm not a gambler like you. I usually lose at backgammon, I pick up abandoned pennies on the street, I don't like to waste. I won't do anything for a hundred bucks. I'm not plotting every relationship ten moves in advance. I miss the microtwitches and reddenings of a face that a good poker player tunes in to. I can't charm a baby. I'm not the first one to feel when the breeze's direction changes. I think the whores who tromp around in casinos carrying trays inelegant, with lips too reddened, their alcoholic offerings weak with melted ice.

It is a cut-rate casino so the whores are worse-looking than usual. I watch you eyeing your cards, figuring out whether to ask for another hit. Your eyes glitter as possibility becomes reality. Your eyes go from your cards to your dealer, dealer to your cards, and finally you ask for one more, to see if your human will and hope really can subvert the laws of the universe.

I am playing too but only because you are - I want to feel what you feel when you're winning. I want to feel camaraderie with that plump blonde over there with her tub of $20,000 worth of chips, who keeps stacking them on the table without fear of losing, as if what she has in her bucket is coinage from a fantasy novel and she is a genie free to be ridiculously profligate, to fulfill everyone's wishes.

I want to see what your life means, whether you'll pass or go for blackjack, exactly how much you'll risk, and for what. I want to see just how far you'll go and I won't. I want to not care for tonight that gamblers always, always lose; that we will walk out of here not being able to take anything more out of our shared bank account, not talking into the black and cold night, our hands apart.

And when that loss comes, I will its punch to be gone, like the watered-down whisky.